Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Fountain Pens

Like dressing for dinner, writing with a fountain pen helps you to be at your best. The direct descendent of the reed, it is the modern quill. A fountain pen requires focus on the line, the curve, and the mark. Even a quick note, soon to be discarded, carries importance, however briefly. 

 

The fountain pen requires maintenance and demands care and too easily leaves unwanted ink—sometimes alarmingly much—on fingers, papers, desk, and books. And it does not erase. A good ballpoint or roller ball will almost do as well on paper. Pencils have their virtues beyond erasability. The fountain pen needs no justification or excuse because it is the premier writing instrument.

Last year, I enrolled in several webinars about calligraphy that were sponsored by Mont Blanc. (I have a Meisterstück 4810 which was a present from an old and dear friend.) Following those, I unboxed my inventory and cleaned them up. Although I wanted the circa 1967 Sheaffer to be the everyday pen, its barrel was cracked and reinforced with scotch tape and the reservoirs fell off the connector pin. I bought new Sheaffers. One for calligraphy had an extremely lightweight body and never flowed well. I sent it back with a letter. They sent me another, much better. Another with promise of good heft does not accept the standard Sheaffer reservoir or any other from Sheaffer that I have found. So, it was back to rollerballs and fiber-tips. 

 

Taking the challenge again, I viewed YouTube videos from Gentleman’s Gazette and Figboot, and one from Prof. Richard McCutcheon, Dean of Arts at Thompson Rivers University. Then, I found a Figboot interview with Neil Degrasse Tyson. 

 

I cleaned the Mont Blanc and put a medium nib in another Sheaffer calligraphy pen. Yesterday, I went shopping. Jerry’s Artarama stopped carrying them. They sent me to Kinokuniya, a Japanese store. There, I found a Pilot that fills with a squeeze reservoir. I also bought an inexpensive Kawe Perkeo that accepts the “Euro” cartridges of which I have an unused box. I chose a red body for the Pilot and filled it with red ink (Mont Blanc). The Kawe nib is fine and the ink plain blue. The Mont Blanc and Sheaffer, both mediums, are black, though the Mont Blanc 585 nib is broader.  

 

PREVIOUSLY ON NECESSARY FACTS

 

The Pencil: History, Design, and Circumstance 

Pencil Notes: Reflections on Henry Petroski’s “The Pencil” 

Armadillocon 41 Day 3 Part 2 

Copy Rights and Wrongs 


Tuesday, October 4, 2022

A Conservative Against the Constitution

Commentator Daniel Greenfield is featured on PolitiChicks (https://politichicks.com). He provides readers with insights and outlook against (and for) the things they hate (and love): Transgender Historical Revisionism; They’re Redistributing Wealth not Fighting Inflation; The Wit and Wisdom of Kamala Harris. His column “The Coming Outlawing of the Republican Party” is datelined “2 weeks ago.” That piece included one very weak point which, to me, revealed that his purpose is to provide arguments, rather than to deliver analysis. Greenfield seemed to lack a fundamental understanding of the US Constitution. 

The column in question was about “insurrection lawsuits.”

Associated Press, March 10, 2022, at 2:53 p.m.: Wisconsin liberals on Thursday, March 10, 2022, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Republican Sen. Johnson, U.S. Reps. Tom Tiffany and Scott Fitzgerald are insurrectionists in violation of the U.S. Constitution for their words and actions in support of Donald Trump leading up to the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. -- US News & World Reporthttps://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2022-03-10/wisconsin-lawsuit-accuses-3-gop-congressmen-of-insurrection (See also “Lawsuit seeks to block ‘insurrectionist’ Marjorie Taylor Greene from reelection bid” Reuters, March 24, 2022 3:02 PM CDT. You can find much more online with the key phase.)

Daniel Greenfield wrote: “After Biden took over, Democrat activist groups began a push to disqualify Republicans who had participated in the Jan 6 protests from elected office based on the 14th Amendment. Adopted after the Civil War, it’s mostly notable for abolishing slavery. But Section 3 also banned anyone from holding elected office if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or “given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Aimed at Confederates, most would have considered this a dead letter, but the Left excels at digging up obscure legal fossils and making use of them.”

 

To me, Greenfield’s argument denies a primary value within the American conservative ethos. Greenfield echoes liberal and progressive thinking that the Constitution must be reinterpreted often as our society changes, which is also (to me) a valid point. The demise of “separate but equal” is the classic case. That being as it may, and granted that the US Constitution has its weaknesses, I regard every word as important and consequential.

 

The War Between the States was not the first insurrection. Shays’ Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion long preceded it. The Hartford Convention came close to considering secession. On the other hand, even though state National Guard units were called out to quell violent labor protests and strikes of the late 19th century and early 20th centuries those were not insurrections because the strikers did not seek to seize control of the government.  That would also apply to the people in the long struggle of the late 1950s through early 1970s over Civil Rights, war, and the associated issues. In any case, the Constitution is quite clear: the debarrment applies to those who held public office. It also extends to anyone who gave aide and comfort to the enemies of the United States or any State.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

I believe that anyone who claims to be an American conservative must apply a strict interpretation of the US Constitution and therefore must assert that anyone who has participated in an insurrection against the United States must be barred from holding public office.

 

PREVIOUSLY ON NECESSARY FACTS

Contradictions in the Constitution 

Etruscans and Americans

Unlimited Constitutional Government 

An Objective Foundation for Government 

Furloughs for Freedom: Downsizing the Government 


Sunday, October 2, 2022

Kyle Astronomy Club: International Observe the Moon Night

The City of Kyle Public Library Astronomy Club sponsored a community outreach for International Observe the Moon Night, 1 October 2022. Half a dozen club members, six or eight friends from Next Door dot com, and another dozen passers-by were supported by six outreach experts from the Austin Astronomical Society. The star party ran from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Two of our guests were children with their parents and they left with planispheres, courtesy of the club. In addition to the waxing quarter Moon, stargazers viewed Jupiter, Saturn, Albireo, Messier 13 in Hercules, and other targets. 

 

Ron brought two classic Dobsonian reflectors made from concrete forms.
Al's telescope is a computerized Celestron 8SE.
Domingo provided a Meade 10-inch LX 200 classic.
Joyce and Jim always show up with their homemade 8-inch Newtonian.
The other 8-inch Newt on the field was Ed's Celestron Dob. 


PREVIOUSLY ON NECESSARY FACTS

 

Moon-Venus-Antares Conjunction 

The Night Sky With National G 

Seeing in the Dark: Your Front Row Seat to the Universe 

The Perfect Machine 

 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Sociology is a Science

Not usually my favorite scientist, I enjoyed Neil deGrasse Tyson interviewed by Ben Shapiro mostly because I agreed with Tyson and I was impressed with his engagement style as Shapiro baited him on genderism as a progressive cause. Shapiro wanted Tyson to say that subjective claims of gender identity are not scientific: sex is scientific; gender is based on sex. Tyson pointed to the objective reality of sociology which says that it is worthy of scientific study to discover what it is in a social context that people believe is true. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson - The Ben Shapiro Show Sunday Special Ep. 72

835,919 views Oct 13, 2019 -- Neil deGrasse Tyson — renowned astrophysicist, host of "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" on PBS, the "StarTalk Radio" podcast, and best-selling author of "Letters from an Astrophysicist" — joins Ben to discuss science, religion, morality, climate change, transgenderism, abortion, and much more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBxAQYmPHDA


Ben Shapiro committed the same error as progressives and accepted by conservatives and traditionalists such as Keynesian and Chicago economists who believe that as man-made artifacts, the social sciences are subjective and ultimately arbitrary. 

Posted to Galt’s Gulch Online -- 18 March 2016

Yes, exactly, that was my point to jlc. Not alone here, she prides herself in having majored in “real” science, not social science. But “real” science is plagued with positivism and the eternal harvesting of one more data point in pursuit of inductive truth.

 

As I have pointed out, in the sociology classes I took while majoring in criminology, and finishing a masters in social science, we actually did study the scientific method, at every level, at least at the beginning of the semester. (In the world standard textbook by Sir Anthony Giddens (architect of “New Labour”), it is discussed twice, once at the outset and again with more detail at the end of the book.) Moreover, in sociology, we study the origins and development of the science, sometimes to our own dismay.

 

Many in sociology accept physics as the gold standard of science. They point out that you can find many papers published today that cite Max Weber. No one in Physics Letters A-G or Physics Today cites James Clerk Maxwell in support of an argument. Conversely, few sociology papers cite research less than five years old. Physics is always about citing the latest research in your paper.

 

But that speaks exactly to the point. We do not bury our story of development, the false paths, the overturned assumptions, the backpedaling and even the curious, if not hypocritical, yet highly rewarding research of Marxists who set up a consumer polling business. (Read Paul Lazarsfeld in Wikipedia.) 

 

I had a 200-level class, required not only for sociology, but also for social workers in Research Methods. Every week, we chose and criticized two peer reviewed papers of our own selection. "Can undergraduates meaningfully criticize peer-reviewed papers?" I asked. “Start with the math,” the professor said. You don't get that in physics.

 

Social sciences obviously are plagued by many problems, fundamental conceptual problems. They appear as basic ideological problems. The reason that I did not pursue a master's in criminology was that there was nothing more to learn: race, gender, and capitalist oppression pretty much defined the sources of all of our problems. By choosing an open program in “social science” I put together an approved study of transnational white collar crime by taking graduate classes in criminology, U.S. foreign policy, economics, and geography. 

 

But by then - as opposed to when I was first a freshman in 1967 - my understanding of Objectivism was better integrated.

[Edited for typography and spelling 7 September 2022.]

 

PREVIOUSLY ON NECESSARY FACTS


The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method Revisited

Is Physics a Science? 

Is Philosophy a Science? 

The Pretense of Sociology 

Sociology: A Defense and a Call for Reform 

Engineers and Jihadi 

 

 

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Lack of Religion is not the Presence of Science

Recent polls from the Pew Trust and Gallup assert that 30% of Americans self-identify as Not Religious along the spectrum from Atheist to Do Not Attend Services, even as 60% of Americans say that God created us directly or may guide our evolution. Moreover, a Marist poll commissioned by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History revealed that 17% of college graduates believe that the Earth goes around the Sun in one day.

"Measuring Religion in Pew Research Center's
American Trends Panel" 
Pew Research Center 14 January 2021 

"Science Knowledge Quiz" 
Pew Research Center
28 March 2019

Richard Hofstadter found the source of our anti-intellectual tradition in Jacksonian Democracy of the late 1820s, after the passing of the Revolutionary generation. (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on 4 July 1826.) Entrenched ignorance is a tradition running 200 years. Granted that exceptions stand out. 

 

https://maristpoll.marist.edu/cleveland-museum-of-natural-history-survey/


James A. Garfield is credited with an original proof of the Pythagorean Theorem in 1876, but it had little to do with his election to the Presidency in 1880. Woodrow Wilson served as president of Princeton University. Herbert Hoover earned his degree in mining engineering from Stanford (1895). Although Jimmy Carter completed a degree in nuclear engineering at the US Naval Academy, John F. Kennedy was the last president who could be called an intellectual. 

 

Nearly 3 in 10 Doubt Leaders Value Scientific Expertise
https://news.gallup.com/topic/science.aspx



PREVIOUSLY ON NECESSARY FACTS

 

Why Evidence is not Enough

The Science of Liberty 

The Success of the Weird People 

Gregory M. Browne’s Necessary Factual Truths 

 

 

Monday, August 29, 2022

A New Microscope

To support my emotional buy-in to my most important medications, I responded to an email from AmScope. I shopped for a binocular microscope for about six months and engaged in online chat with other hobbyists regarding the options for makes and models. I took the general advice from Oliver Kim at Microbobe Hunter (https://www.microbehunter.com) and accepted this offer of a good-enough microscope that will serve for three years of careful use.

 

AmScope B270. 4x, 10x, 40X, and
100X (immersion) objectives
with10x oculars in Siedentopf head;
with extended warranty $286.

Based on my experience in astronomy, my prejudice was for a Zeiss model, costing ten times as much. The fact is that I do not work professionally at that level. All I want to do is view prepared slides of human histology specimens. Comparing and contrasting what is offered across the hobby market, right now, my engagement was best served with a modest upgrade to my current inventory. Before this purchase, my best instruments came from Goodwill Online, three of them for under $150 total.  I also inherited from a neighbor in Austin a very nice – but very used – Tasco set with specimens and et ceteras.

 

So, this is an incremental improvement. And as with astronomy and backyard stargazing, my viewing is only in support of other involvements at a different level. I also have two sets of prepared slides, very general including bugs and plants. I am now shopping online at professional laboratory companies for human histology specimens. 

 

PREVIOUSLY ON NECESSARY FACTS

 

Biohackers 

Biobash: Chamber Replicates Success 

Before Darwin 

From Texas to the Moon with John Leonard Riddell 

 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

THE ANDROMEDA GALAXY REVISITED

With a hospital a mile away and schools all around, my northern sky here is worse than it was in Austin. Except for finding Messier 81 three times in ten or more attempts, nothing near the Big Dipper is available even with the aid of a computerized “go to” mount. However, being out at 5:00 AM, I found Cassiopeia readily and was pretty sure that I could make out the smudge of Messier 31 off the sharper vertex of the W. And I did. 

This morning, between 5:18 and 5:38, I viewed the Andromeda Galaxy with an Explore Scientific 102-mm f/6.47 achromatic doublet refractor because that one was closest to the door. The oculars were a 14-mm Meade 4000 series 82-degree, a Nagler 7-mm Ploessl, both of those with and without a basic GSO 2X Barlow. So, variously 47X and 94X with more or less eye relief.

 

If I did not know in advance what I was looking at, I would have classified this as a globular cluster. There was some shape to the smear, longer than round, with some central sparkle. It seemed to have a halo but that could have been atmospheric effect. The centrality of the bright core came out with averted vision, looking away left, right, up, and down, changing between left and right eyes. Several times, I moved a bright star to the center and refocused more tightly. Overall, it was more like Messier 4 which is also spread out and not like Messier 22 which is a tighter circle of light.


Addendum: 02 September 2022. Orion 70mm refractor with Meade 25 mm Modified Achromat and with Celestron 32 mm Super Ploessel Wide Angle. Nominally "clear" skies but with much residual moisture from current rainy season. It took some doing from 0340 to 0420. I found M31 naked eye and with Bushnell 12x42 binocular and then needed several attempts to locate it with the telescope. As above but not as large, it looked like a globular cluster, brighter in the circular center with indistinct fading left and right.

 

PREVIOUSLY ON NECESSARY FACTS

 

The Andromeda Galaxy

Viewing Mars 

Recent Astronomical Observing 

The Map that Changed the World 

Forbidden Planet 

When Worlds Collide 


Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Invictus

I learned the poem in seventh grade English. The our teacher, Mr. Hart, said that he held a thesis that it was actually translated from Latin and originated with Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and that name was also attached to the poem as it appeared on the blackboard. I never found any support for the claim, though the sentiment is clearly aligned to the philosophy of the emperor philosopher and soldier who was portrayed by Sir Alec Guiness in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 

 

“Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

 

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate;

I am the captain of my soul.

 

Previously on NecessaryFacts

The Cure for a Failing Empire 

The Influence of Ayn Rand's Objectivism 

The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method (revisited)  

Mortality 


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

My Armadillocon Presentations

I attend Armadillocon because it serves writers with workshops and panel discussions and science presentations. As a technical writer, I try to bring the reader into the story. Otherwise, without engagement, they will not follow the plans, policies, or procedures. I try to make technical writing lively by varying the language with synonyms, pacing passive voice into the active for contrast, setting the stage with a strong, meaningful introduction, and including plenty of pictures (each worth 1000 words). 

 

Interior of Lindsay's space "balloon"
by Brad W. Foster for this presentation

Enthralled by Armadillocon 39 (2017), I volunteered to present at the next convention in 2018. At Armadillocon 40, my slideshow was “From Texas to the Moon with John Leonard Riddell.” I proposed Riddell as the first working scientist to publish a science fiction story. Orrin Lindsay’s Plan of Aerial Navigation, with a Narrative of His Explorations in the Higher Regions of the Atmosphere, and His Wonderful Voyage Round the Moon! (Rea's Power Press, New Orleans, 1847). Riddell taught chemistry at the Louisiana Medical College (later Tulane University) and while there he invented the binocular microscope. Because Riddell also served as the chief melter of the New Orleans mint, I sold his story to The Numismatist (vol 127 no. 4, April 2017). I also presented it at an ANA convention in Dallas on 5 March 2016 and the story is here on my blog at https://necessaryfacts.blogspot.com/2012/12/from-texas-to-moon-with-john-leonard.html

 


For Armadillocon 41 in 2019, my talk on Friday night 2 August was on “The Future of Money” (on this blog here: https://necessaryfacts.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-future-of-money.html). This was also my presentation for an ANA convention, for which I was awarded a stipend by the Sundman/Littleton Coin Lecture Series 14 August 2019, for the Chicago venue. Over the years, the ANA honored several of my publications with literary awards, first, second, and third place, depending. And I wrote a monthly column for them from 2005 to 2011 in addition to accepting assignments from the editor for special feature articles. So, this was an area where I could bring some expertise.


My second engagement for Armadillocon 41 was less well grounded but even more fun for me. I proposed a talk on “The Future of Crime and Punishment.” My degrees are in criminology and social science and I have a couple of peer reviewed publications, but not the depth of numismatics and I am not a retired FBI guy, just a retired security guard. However, I was placed on a panel to game the robbing of a space station, “The Perfect Heist: Crime in the 23rd Century.” (Stina Leicht moderated with help from David Afrarishad, Rob Rogers, Michael Bracken, GoH Rebecca Roanhorse and me, the wheelman.) We got away with it.

 

PREVIOUSLY ON NECESSARY FACTS

Massive Constellations of Artificial Satellites: What if They  Were Natural? 

Western Shoot-Out: The Virginian versus Bonanza 

Viewing Mars 

Regimental Public Affairs Officer 

 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Armadillocon 44: Day 3

Hard science topics, especially on space exploration, are always a panel or a presentation at Armadillocon. 

“Space Tries to Kill You” (7 August 1100 HRS) featured moderator William Frank, NASA Chief Training Officer, backed up by panelists Alan J. Porter, Marina Lostetter, Avery Parks, Dantzel Cherry, and Stina Leicht with lots of audience interaction. He said that there would be no Kobayashi Maru an unwinnable scenario that requires reprogramming the computer to win. Instead, Bill Frank read scenarios, and then first the panelists and finally the audience offered their solutions to the emergencies. Throughout, Frank congratulated everyone on our clear thinking and encouraged us to apply to NASA.

You try to land on an asteroid and the surface rebounds coming up to meet you. (This is based on the recent discovery that some asteroids are not solid.)

There was a call for drones.
Frank said that orbiting is not possible but station-keeping is.
Another problem is that our billionaire boss who funded the mission scrimped on the budget and left out something we need now.
There was more discussion as the panel talked out this first exercise.

You wake up and smell smoke.

  1. Alert the crew.
  2. Call Mission Control.
  3. Locate the source and open the vent to vacuum.
  4. [etc.]
  5. [etc.[
  6.  Cut off power to the source
  7. Get a portable vacuum cleaner because that will show the flow of smoke from its origin.
  8. Push the FIRE alarm.
  9. Leave. Close (open) (seal) all vents. Shut down the module.
  10. Do not fight the fire.

Fire hangs in a sphere because there is no gravity. (I did not shout out that this has been known since 1857 and John Leonard Riddell’s “Voyage to the Moon.”

 

11.    There are two smoke masks for the crew.

12.    Troubleshoot the problem.


Among the crew were two millionaire space tourists and it was suggested with some humor that perhaps we did not need to alert them. In fact, said William Frank, you can assume that everyone has been trained in all procedures. So, consider them part of the crew. 


You are in a standard capsule (Apollo, Soyuz, Boeing Starliner, etc.). You have failure to separate from the booster. 

After much questioning for details and suggestions that were rejected as unworkable, we were told to abandon the crew module, get into the capsule, separate, and abandon the failed booster and module. 

Space capsule in two stages for crew.
I provide this here and now to help visualize
the problem.
There was no PowerPoint.

Bill Frank said that your priorities are:

  1. Crew safety.
  2. Vehicle safety.
  3. The mission.

Several times, it was suggested that our billionaire boss cut corners. In the final scenario, Stina Leicht said that our boss was a libertarian so our safety was not his  concern. Personally, I thought that was disingenuous. Libertarians join the rants against crony capitalism and the incompetent narcissists who rake in the loot from what was classically called “rent-seeking” and in the case of the Former President was literally and truly rent-seeking from artful deals involving eminent domain. 


Other Panels and Break-out Sessions

 

Search Engine Optimization for Writers and Artists (12:00 Noon. Matthew Bey Moderator with Porter, Hardwick, Chang, and Sarath, all with SEO street cred.) I took a lot of notes. When I tried it the next morning, nothing worked. Apparently, Google Blogger works very differently than WordPress. I could follow none of the pathing. One thing I can do is go back and put alt text descriptions in all of the illustrations. I never cared if this blog was popular. I get paid to write for others. Here I write for myself. After 11 years, I have had over 424,000 page views mostly in the USA with occasional spikes from Russia, India and China; and yet only seven followers. 

 

Ask an Archaeologist with Dr. Betsy Bevis. (2:00 PM – back on civilian time). Prof. Bevis’s specialty is classical archaeology, the Greeks, Romans, and their contextual civilizations. It is an area that I know well enough having written a dozen articles about classical and archaic numismatics for The Celator. She was informative, enlightening, engaging, and lively. She exposed errors in popular media such as The Mummy and she spoke candidly though carefully about the relationships that are subjected to trial by ordeal on a dig. (It can cost you your marriage, your career, and your friendships.) During her presentation, Dr. Bevis did have some problem with environmental noise impacting her hearing but we all worked with her on that and no one was left out. 

 

Howard Waldrop: A Fireside Chat with Mr. National Treasure (15:00 hours).

We all enjoyed his flowing monologue across many streams of thought and experience about how books become movies (or not). “People ask me how I’m doing. Hell, I’m in assisted living and they let me out once in a while to do things like this, you know, so that’s it…. Now, speaking of Felicia Day, as I was saying awhile ago…”

 

PREVIOUSLY ON NECESSARY FACTS

Elon Musk and the Audacity of Entrepreneurship 

Virgin Galactic VX01 and VX03 

Ayn Rand and Star Trek 

“Star Trek: Discovery” and the Conflict of Values 

 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Armadillocon 44 Part 2

The convention lost two of its founders, Willie Siros and Joe W. Bratcher III and memorials were held to celebrate both of them. Willie Siros was also a founder of FACT the Fandom Association of Central Texas. FACT is the engine of creation and administration for Armadillocon. His bookstore was Adventures in Crime and Space. Sara Felix’s tribute was posted here: https://file770.com/willie-siros-1952-2022-tribute-by-sara-felix/. Joe Bratcher owned Malvern Books, a cornerstone of Austin culture and a solid supporter of the convention. 

6 August 14:00 HRS (The show guide really is in military time.) Tiara Workshop. Artist Sarah Felix. Impressed with the tiaras that she bestowed on the guests of honor during the opening ceremony, I was hoping to make something that Aragorn might wear but that was not the kind of identical kits that we got. I left and went to the dealer’s room. Laurel worked on hers but brought it home incomplete. This was definitely a waste of $50 leaving us with unwanted bric-a-brac cheaper than Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. 

 

I returned to the Dealers Room for a couple of hours, though I still only met about half of the dealers because of our own attenuated schedule. 

 

Pick a Little, Talk a Little: The Art of Lockpicking by Tex Thompson (1600 HRS).

Cowgirl shows how to open a lock with a credit card.
Tex Thompson loids a lock.
How to open a lock with a credit card.


Back in 2019, Tex Thompson moderated a panel on how to moderate panels. I learned a lot from that session about working either side of the dais. Tex missed last year’s con and I missed her. This year she was back with a new career as a locksmith. (Laurel and I have been locksporters since we lived in Ann Arbor. Here in Austin, I donated several mechanisms to their trove and they awarded Laurel a pair of handcuffs.) Tex Thompson’s presentation was a show-and-tell with hands-on cut-aways from the 19th through 21st centuries. She covered the fallacies in cinema and the tools of the trade including rakes, bumping, and snappers. She touched on some of the forensics that reveal when a lock has been picked. We had a good time and helped her schlep her gear back to her car. 


Fannish Feud. (1700 HRS). Our friend, Kurt Baty, was on the fan side. We never watched Family Feud but the rules were easy enough with the pivot being that the answers came from a poll of the convention. So, they were not necessarily right and you have to guess what “most” people might have said. Name a vampire… Name a fan artist … What was the fishing boat in Jaws? … etc. The fans won. 

 

The Future of Identity in SF (1900 HRS). After a one-hour hiatus, the convention picked up again. I was really looking forward to this. 

 

Much of the discussion here was about the distinction between artificial intelligence (parking a car) and artificial general intelligence (being “human” or something like that). Stina Leicht pointed out that historically, people have modeled the mind with the technology of the times from fluids and humors to clockworks to computers but the mind is not any of those. 


Ryan Leslie mentioned “evolutionary compensation” but did not extend that thread. (See: “Compensatory evolution means that a locus will evolve an effect size in a different direction to (i.e., negatively correlated with) the effect sizes at other loci.” NIH here.)

 

John Hormor Jacobs alluded to “Midworld” an AI that makes art. (See “Midjourney’s Enthralling AI art generator goes live for everyone” at PC World here.). He then reminded us of the truism that good fiction is a way to consider the human condition and the interesting question about AI is what it says about us. How would perfect memory affect your relationship with your spouse? (Laurel and I only exchanged sidelong glances even though we wanted to elbow each other in the ribs and chortle “har-har-har.”) Jacobs said, “A genie is no good to a writer unless it is let out of the bottle.” 

 

Eva L. Elasique (self-identified Filipina-American queer feminist) said that her background as a biologist (studied; no degrees) led her to consider epiphenomenal alien intelligences. That sounded deep at the time. However: “Epiphenomenalism is the view that mental events are caused by physical events in the brain, but have no effects upon any physical events. … Huxley (1874), who held the view, compared mental events to a steam whistle that contributes nothing to the work of a locomotive.Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Epiphenomenalism" here

 

Jacobs and Leitz exchanged comments on gender fluidity in a future that lets you change it like clothing and how that could lead to species fluidity. Leitz pointed out that we now know that in the sterile environment of a space station, your immune system has not much to do and you develop odd allergies, such as to plastic. (That general claim is known though I did not find a reference to plastic. See NASA Human Research Aug 18, 2014 "Study Reveals Immune System is Dazed and Confused During Spaceflight" here.) 

 

Moderator Hilary Ritz asked, “What are the qualities that you see as essentially human and that you would not want to lose?” John Hormor Jacobs offered kindness. 

 

How Near-Future Science Fiction has Changed (2000 HRS) Moderator David Afsharirad asked, “What is the most disruptive technology that has turned science fiction on its head?” 

  • For Rhonda Eudaly it is cellphones. She added that we have to accept that we will not know what the next big thing is. 
  • For Alan J. Porter it is miniaturization. 
  • William Ledbetter looked to 3-D printing. 
  • John K. Gibbons pointed out that the cellphone became “a layer of concern” because of the Internet. 
  • Bill Frank (NASA chief training officer) offered the brain-machine interface that allows prosthetics and much else, adding that the pilot of a craft will soon become a redundant component. 

David Afsharirad asked, “Is there something, a speculative element, that must be in a story set 40 to 50 years in the future?”

  • Alan J. Porter suggested artificial intelligence. 
  • Rhonda Eudaly said that we have abandoned the reality of Covid. It is no longer part of a story in mainstream entertainment, adding that more pandemics seem inevitable. 
  • John K. Gibbons added that previous pandemics lasted up to 50 years.
  • Alan J. Porter came back to machine learning and Siri-Alexa voice interfaces that will make keyboards obsolete. 
  • Bill Frank looked to algorithmic conditioning, learning the interface, being conditioned by the algorithms around you adding that it is informative to watch a two-year old learn a device like a cellphone or pad. 
  • John K. Gibbons said that climate change has gone beyond the centerpiece of the plot to being a fundamental condition. “It is kind of crazy if you ignore it.”
  •  Returning to nanotechnology, Ledbetter underscored new material coatings and changes in the human body.

David Afsharirad asked, “What do we obsess over when predicting the future?” 

  • John K. Gibbons replied that it is not the technological projection of space travel but that the extrapolation of it has not aligned with the reality of space exploitation back then. 
  • Turning on that point, Alan J. Porter said, “… but now we have Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold the Moon.” 

“What could we not see coming?” Fifty years ago everyone smoked cigarettes and the roles of women were still in the  traditional molds. As the discussion traveled along the table, Rhonda Eudaly said, “ It’s not the nanotech. It’s the people.”

 

The End of Capitalism (2100 HRS) Let’s discuss writers who defy the saying, “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” What are your favorite anti-capitalist works of SFFH? How have you experimented with world building in your own writing?” (Rick Klaw moderator with Martha Wells, Donna Dechen Birdwell, William Ledbetter, Clayton Hackett, Sim Kern.) 

 

Referring often to Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossed, not only did none of them actually answer the question with examples from their own publications in which they imagined non-capitalist economies or societies without economics, all of the anti-capitalist clichés were deeply infused with ignorance. For me, leading the list was the narrative that we evolved from barter to money and the best alternative to money would be a return to barter. Anthropologist (and anarcho-communist) David Graeber (Debt: The First 5000 Years) asserted that we have no example of any society evolving from barter to money but rather barter is what people resort to when money fails. 

 

Another rant on the evils of capitalist colonialism was launched from allusion to England’s primogeniture laws which sent younger sons out into the world to exploit people. I must point out that they were not Dutch capitalists floating bonds or Jewish moneylenders charging interest. The British colonialists were the best that could be offered by the kind of society all of the writers seemed to want: traditional, landed, family-based, community-based, altruistic, feudal. In fact, the point was made explicitly that medieval lords cared for their serfs and took care of them and the serfs only worked about 140 days a year. William Ledbetter did note as an aside that of course they did not have a lot of material wealth.

 

I could go on forever. (I presented "The Future of Money: Beyond Solars and Credits" at Armadillocon 41.) At the end, Clayton Hackett suggested that an innovative monetary medium would lose value over time so that you are forced to spend it in order to keep the economy going. I understand the concept of fiat inflation. I only fail to see the innovation.

 

PREVIOUSLY ON NECESSARY FACTS

 

The Future of Money 

Mere Gold is Not Enough: Hayek’s Denationalisation 

Numismatics: The Standard of Proof in Economics 

Worker’s Paradise Promised an End to Money